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Worker’s Kin Gets $7M+ Asbestos Award

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

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The family of a former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard worker has been awarded $7.25 million in his death after years of workplace exposure to asbestos.

Defendant Rockbestos (now RSCC Wire and Cable LLC, of East Granby, CT), which had offered Edward G. Merwitz's widow and two daughters $2,500 to settle the case before trial, will now pay its share of the judgment: $3.6 million in survival damages and $3.6 million for wrongful death.

Edward Merwitz
Family photo via news outlets

Rockbestos was the only defendant remaining at the end of the wrongful-death trial regarding Edward G. Merwitz.

Eight other asbestos manufacturers resolved their claims with the family in confidential settlements before or during the two-week trial in Philadelphia.

Death from Mesothelioma

Merwitz, of Langhorne, PA, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January 2010 and died that July 31 at the age of 62. Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer tied primarily to airborne asbestos exposure.

According to the suit, Merwitz was exposed to asbestos while working on warships at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in the late 1960s, where he regularly handled gaskets, packing, pumps, electric motors, turbines, control boxes, electric wire, pipe covering, insulation and other products containing the hazardous material.

Wikimedia Commons / Dr. Frank Gaillard

Exposure to airborne asbestos particles is a leading contributor to malignant mesothelioma. This unidentified patient had left-sided mesothelioma.

The suit said Merwitz had never been warned of the dangers of asbestos and had never been provided with any protection from asbestos fibers.

Defendant: Misidentified

Marmon Wire and Cable LLC, parent company of Rockbestos (RSCC), did not respond Monday (March 17) to a request for comment.

At trial, Rockbestos argued that a witness who worked with Merwitz had misidentified their product, according to the plaintiffs' attorneys. The company also claimed that:

  • Its electric wire product did not give off respirable fiber, but instead contained fiber that did not cause mesothelioma; and
  • If Merwitz had been exposed to its product, it was not on a sufficiently "regular, frequent and proximate basis," as is required by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

'Bitterly Contested'

"This was a bitterly contested case over the full course of the two-week trial," said plaintiffs' attorney Lawrence R. Cohan.

"As other defendants settled, it was clear that defendant Rockbestos intended to assert all of its defenses, and to let the jury decide the case. The jury rejected them all." 

According to Cohan's firm, the jury also found that the following companies' asbestos-containing products were substantial contributing factors to Merwitz's illness: Buffalo Pumps, Westinghouse, Blackmer Pumps, General Electric Company, Greene Tweed & Company, Inc., Square D Company, and Warren Pumps, LLC.

Cohan said Merwitz's widow, Rosemary, and daughters, Christina and Mary, were "ecstatic" about the verdict.

"They understand that each defendant only pays its share and feel that justice was done," he said.


Tagged categories: Asbestos; Fatalities; Health and safety; Shipyards; Worker training

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